K.K. Downing played in Judas Priest from 1970 to 2011 and recently detailed his extensive time with the band in his new book Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest. Downing touches on everything from his childhood to embracing the heavy metal tag in Judas Priest. He also talks a little bit about why he thinks Jimi Hendrix is responsible for his heavy metal riffing, as opposed to the popular citations that either Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin were big influences.
Downing explains his opinion more in his recent Rolling Stone interview:
When I saw [Hendrix] in ’66, ’67 and ’68, he was his own free spirit. He was out there to do his things. I saw shows later on, and they weren’t the same as he was becoming more troubled, more affected with the business and whatever else was in his life. But in the early days, and Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend will tell you the same thing, when he first came to England he destroyed the place. I was at gigs where fans would jump from balconies and storm the stage; I was one of them. He had so much of an aura and charisma. It was dynamite.
As for the others, I wasn’t really a Zeppelin or a Black Sabbath fan. I was a fan of all music, but nobody had what Hendrix had. He was the first person where I really heard what I would call real heavy metal. Sabbath had some good things going on, but it was bloody different. When Hendrix opened up with “Foxey Lady” and then goes into “Purple Haze,” the riffs and the style of writing and guitar playing is something that’s completely unique and that stayed with me. Obviously I went on to be a musician and the last thing I wanted to do was to copy him because nobody could, but it left inside me that style that needed to be elaborated on and that happened quite a lot in Priest.
I'm actually not that surprised that Downing cited Hendrix over Sabbath. Judas Priest never really went the doom route, but I can definitely see how Led Zeppelin would've at least crept in there just a little bit. Grab the book below.